Approximately 325 trainers and instructors from across the USA, including a handful from Canada, were in attendance for a working clinic with Sabine Schut-Kery and Sven Rothenberger at High Meadowbrook Farm in Loxahatchee, FL, January 15-16.

Headshots of Sven Rothenberger and Sabine Schut-Kery.

Sven Rothenberger and Sabine Schut-Kery. (USDF photo)

Schut-Kery is a USA team and individual silver medallist, and Rothenberger is a former German team member and winner of many international dressage competitions and also now an FEI dressage judge. The riders and horses chosen for this two-day working clinic were an interesting mix of some well-known names and some good national level riders, with a range of younger to older horses already established at FEI Level.

The key theme running through all the work on both days from both clinicians included:

Create energy in the horse, but keep the RHYTHM … don’t just get faster or slower.

Sabine: “Work on your position ‒ we all have to do it every day!” She had a rider cross the stirrups to stretch the leg more into a more efficient position. Her comments on hands and arms included, “The proper alignment of the upper arm ‒ elbow and wrist and hand ‒ is very important. The arm and all the joints create an elastic contact to the horse’s mouth. The thumb should be on top, the fingers closed, the wrist flexible, the hands low and the elbow ready to lighten the contact or keep the contact as necessary.”

Sven: “Do it right.” He was referring to transitions from walk to canter, or canter to trot, asking his riders to pay better attention to every detail of the transition in terms of the preparation, the rider helping the horse to keep the balance, and being quick to come down, and especially when cantering on to think of the first canter stride going uphill! Like Sabine, he kept after the riders to correct their positions. With a chuckle he told one rider, “If you don’t put your legs down, I will take the stirrups away!”

A technical piece of advice from Sabine to a participant with a very long saddle pad noted, “It is interfering with your lower leg, and sometimes your heel is getting close to being under it!” When trying for more impulsion and more active hindlegs came the call, “Get out of your comfort zone!!! If you have a mistake it doesn’t matter ‒ try again!”

Sven: With a horse that was tense, “Take the time ‒ a horse must be relaxed to accept the rider’s information…”

On both days, Sabine worked a few horses through long leg yields to get more activation and articulation in the hind legs and joints. These exercises were added to the normal warm-up with very good results.

With such exact attention to detail, it was amazing and very gratifying to see the subtle transformation from “nice and good” to “excellent” and the bottom line was: Be excellent for a few strides at first, rather than mediocre all the time!

It was a refreshing clinic with concentration on better basics. The USDF is to be commended on this thoughtful, well-organized event.